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Delay in Responding to Lawsuit Not a Waiver of Arbitration Provision

The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled in favor of Gardner & Rosenberg’s client, reversing the trial court’s denial of his request to compel arbitration of a fee dispute with prior counsel.

After obtaining an award and subsequent settlement in favor of the client in an underlying property dispute, the former counsel sought to recover a disputed fee from the client. Despite the arbitration provision in the fee agreement with the client, counsel brought suit in Superior Court. The Superior Court denied the client’s request to compel arbitration and other efforts to seek arbitration, implicitly based on the client’s delayed response to the lawsuit.

The Appeals Court reversed and remanded the case to be sent to arbitration per the parties’ agreement. The Court held that although a default later entered on the docket, the client did not waive his right to arbitration – the first thing he did when responding to the lawsuit was to demand arbitration and he acted consistently with his desire to resolve the dispute through arbitration. Read the Appeals Court’s decision here.